Senior running back Jacob Mason rushed for five touchdowns and scored a total of 38 points as visiting Slinger spoiled the debut of new Whitnall head coach Jared McGranahan with a 44-16 victory over the host Falcons.
Mason, who also serves as the Owls placekicker, scored on runs of 30, 10, 8, 5, and 4 yards as Slinger controlled the line of scrimmage from the opening kickoff. His 30-yard scamper on Slinger's first offensive possession got the Owls on the board, and his 33-yard field goal on their second drive staked them to an early 10-0 lead.
"If you aren't where you need to be, and you don't use proper technique, you won't get a second shot against that young man (Mason)," said McGranahan. "He took a few long on us, and he is a heck of a player.
Whitnall answered with an offensive drive deep into Slinger territory, but Falcons quarterback Tyler Merritt was intercepted looking for receiver Michael Grim on an out route, as Slinger defensive back Jesse Bellefeuil undercut Grim to make the play at the Owls 10-yard-line. Bellefeuil, who muffed a punt that Slinger recovered on the previous series, returned the interception all the way to Whitnall's 36-yard line, and Mason would hammer home his second touchdown of the game three plays later. Bellefeuil's show of mental toughness was not lost on his head coach.
"I always tell our kids that when they make a mistake, they are going to get another opportunity to make a play," said Slinger head coach Bill Jacklin. "These games are really momentum driven, and that play helped us greatly."
Whitnall sputtered offensively for the rest of the half as Slinger continued to pound the ball behind Mason and its powerful offensive line. The Owls led 24-0 at halftime.
"We are a run-first team," said Jacklin. "We are big up front and have some good backs, and live and die with our run game."
Looking for an offensive spark, McGranahan inserted junior quarterback Kyle Radavich midway through the third quarter. Radavich led the Falcons to their first touchdown of the season, hitting receiver Austin Brault for a 54-yard gain before running back Michael Kremer rumbled into the end zone to bring Whitnall within 31-9. Radavich led Whitnall on an 82-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter as well, finishing the series himself with a one-yard scoring sneak, but the game was already well in hand for the visitors.
Whitnall's starter for next week's game at New Berlin Eisenhower has yet to be determined.
"We are going to take a hard look at the film," said McGranahan. "They had a very close competition throughout camp and split reps at our scrimmage, so I'll have to break the tape down and make a decision based on that."
While this year's game was far more competitive than the 49-0 victory Slinger posted over Whitnall to open the 2013 season, McGranahan hopes that his team can learn from the physicality the Falcons faced on Friday night.
"We knew coming in they were much bigger than us up front. But our kids didn't quit, and that is a true testament of where this program is headed moving forward," said McGranahan. "This game will make us much better fundamentally, and I think we have covered a lot of ground since last year."
Slinger hosts Whitefish Bay on Friday.
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